clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Ravens at Cincinnati Play Scheduled for Same Time As Steelers at Cleveland

It's like a train wreck.

How do you keep your eyes on the road (the Cleveland Browns) when there is something close to you that's much more captivating and dramatic (the Ravens/Bengals game)?

For Steelers fans, it will be impossible to watch the Pittsburgh at Cleveland game without having an eye on another TV, a cell phone or one of those tablet things providing updates on the Ravens/Bengals game.

For Baltimore, a win gives them the AFC North title - the first of coach John Harbaugh's career and the Ravens first division championship since 2006.

A Steelers loss gives them the same thing.

A Ravens loss combined with a Steelers win brings the division championship back to Pittsburgh for the fourth time in five years. Interestingly, it would be the division championship Pittsburgh won while being in first place for the least amount of time this season. They've never held a game advantage over Baltimore, but had the default lead for approximately 24 hours from when San Diego defeated Baltimore, and before San Francisco beat Pittsburgh in Week 15.

The Ravens have controlled their destiny since defeating Pittsburgh for the second time this season in Week 9. The Steelers have matched them, win-for-win and loss-for-loss since then.

What makes this Week 17 one of the most compelling regular season ends in recent memory is the fact Baltimore is in the more difficult of the two games. Cleveland has nothing to play for but bragging rights, while Cincinnati (9-6) could win a Wild Card spot with a win over Baltimore.

It would be the first time in the nine-year history of the AFC North three of its four teams made the playoffs. It's probably part of the reason why the NFL flexed both of these games to the late afternoon slot Sunday.

Frustrating, considering the league could have put the Baltimore game at 1 p.m. ET, and the Steelers game at 4:15 p.m. ET, giving Pittsburgh the ability to rest its starters if Baltimore won. They will be the 5th seed if Baltimore wins, regardless of the outcome of their game against Cleveland.

The league likely moved them both to 4:15 p.m. due to the lack of a sellout in Cincinnati at the time flex decisions needed to be made. If Cincinnati doesn't sell out, CBS will air the Steelers game to a national audience. If they do sell out, they will air the Ravens/Bengals game.

It's certainly not far-fetched the streaking Bengals could knock off the Ravens. Cincinnati racked up 483 yards in Baltimore's 31-24 win in Week 11, but Baltimore's defense made big plays when it needed to against rookie QB Andy Dalton. Cincinnati got inside Baltimore's 10-yard line down seven with less than a minute to play.

And the Ravens were much healthier in that game. RG Marshal Yanda is nursing "bruised ribs" (based on what he said after the game, and the reports of it being painful for him to breathe, it seems more like broken ribs) and may not be able to play. WR Anquan Boldin has already been ruled out after having knee surgery last week.

Meanwhile, Cleveland gave Baltimore something of a scare in Week 16, but sloppy play and an ill-timed offsides penalty on rookie NT Phil Taylor ended a comeback bid. The Browns really do not look sharp on offense or defense, but KR Josh Cribbs has the ability to change games, as Pittsburgh knows full-well. He returned a punt for a touchdown against Baltimore, but the Browns struggled enormously on the offensive side of the ball.

Pittsburgh allowed 7.8 points per game over their last five, and gave up just 3 to Cleveland in Week 14.

No game is a gimme in the NFL, and Pittsburgh must be prepared to take Cleveland's best effort. The first priority is beating the Browns, which begs the question whether QB Ben Roethlisberger will play. He missed Week 16, but could be ready to play Sunday.

Charlie Batch played well in the 27-0 victory over the Rams, largely in part to a dominant Steelers running game. Pittsburgh should feel confident in their advantages over Cleveland on offense and defense, but plain and simple, the team is worse without Roethlisberger in there.

In the end, it sure would be a shame for the Steelers to be upset by the Browns while the Bengals knock off Baltimore. It'll be really hard not to watch both games simultaneously.